In the end a ten point victory for the home side but they were made to fight every yard of the way by an Itlaian team who played from minute one right to the end.
The visitors dominated the opening half and the turning point came minutes each side of the break when first Ramiro Pez was yellow carded and then referee Dave Pearson signalled a try which had he gone to the video ref would not have been awarded.
After Paul Griffen had edged the Italians in front (13-10), O Gara delivered a delightful cross field kick which Tommy Bowe gathered but the Ulsterman was prevented from grounding the ball and despite Italian appeals for confirmation, Pearson awarded the score.
It was all square, ten points apiece, at the end of an Italian dominated first half with O Gara kicking a 39th minute penalty for an infringement that saw influential number 10 Ramiro Pez yellow carded.
In fact the first yellow should have been issued less than two minutes into the game and it should have gone to the Irish player who knocked the ball from Griffen's grasp from a ruck as the Italians threatened inside the Irish 22. Referee Pearson somehow saw it as a knock on
Having converted a 24th minute try from Munster colleague Jerry Flannery, O Gara also added the extras to Bowe s try and tagged on a 58th minute penalty but Pez cancelled that out with a well struck penalty in the 60th minute at which stage Donncha O Callaghan came on for Malcolm O Kelly.
Another penalty concession allowed O Gara put seven points between the sides with fifteen minutes remaining but those who expected Ireland to pull away were to be disappointed. Italy continued to press, Pez was narrowly wide from 44 metres in the 73rd minute and the pressure on the Irish was relieved when the Italians were penalised for punching.
O Gara s successful effort from 37 metres with three minutes to go made the gap
10 points and the victory secure.
Ireland: Geordan Murphy; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll (capt), Gordon D'Arcy, Tommy Bowe; Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Malcolm O'Kelly (D O'Callaghan 60 min), Paul O'Connell, Simon Easterby, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Italy: Cristian Stoica; Pablo Canavosio, Gonzalo Canale, Mirco Bergamasco, Ludovico Nitoglia; Ramiro Pez, Paul Griffen; Salvatore Perugini, Fabio Ongaro, Carlos Nieto, Santiago Dellape, Marco Bortolami (capt), Josh Sole, Mauro Bergamasco, Sergio Parisse.